Window Lawsuit in Florida Ends in a “Tie”

July 12th, 2017 by Editor

A dispute between a homeowner and a window company in Florida in which both sides claimed victory ended in June with an appeals court ruling that neither side has a right to legal fees.

Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals ruled that neither Jonathan Bauer and Vittoria Formentin Bauer nor Ready Windows Sales & Service Corp. can have their legal fees paid, because neither fully prevailed in lawsuits they filed against each other.

The case first began in 2013, when the Bauers and Ready Windows entered into a contract to replace doors and windows at the Bauers’ residence. The contract, which indicated that engineering services were included, separated the cost of the doors and windows, the permits and the installation for a total bill of $24,804.05.

As part of the project, Ready Windows hired Eduardo Pacheco, who is not a licensed engineer, to prepare a plan for submission to the Miami-Dade County Building Department.

In October 2013, Ready Windows installed the fenestration products on the Bauers’ home; however, the Bauers soon filed a lawsuit identifying defects in the doors and windows.

Ready Windows said it made the needed repairs, but the Bauers claimed that the defects weren’t  fixed and withheld final payment. In January 2014, Ready Windows filed a Claim of Lien and a Complaint to Foreclose Mechanic’s Lien.

A trial found that the contract  as it was drawn could be divided into amounts for the products to be delivered, the permit filing fees and the installation services. The court rejected the Bauers’ claim that “engineering” needed to be performed by a licensed engineer who could seal and sign the plans, something that was not required by Miami-Dade County for this job. The court agreed with Ready Windows that the term “engineer” was used in the contract colloquially, thus the failure to have a licensed engineer draw plans did not constitute breach of contract.

The court also ruled that the doors and windows were adequate and fit the openings in the Bauers’ home. However, the court did find that Ready Windows breached the contract because it failed to “adequately, thoroughly and properly” install the doors and windows. As a result, Ready Windows was not entitled to the $3,600 that the contract set aside for installation.

The court entered final judgment in favor of Ready Windows in the amount of $9,039.05. Both parties filed motions for rehearing, which were denied. The Bauers appealed the final judgment, and Ready Windows filed a cross-appeal.

In June 2017, the appeals court affirmed the trial court with regard to both the appeal and cross-appeal. Both the Bauers and Ready Windows filed motions for appellate fees, with both parties claiming that they had prevailed in the appeal.

However, the appeals court ruled that neither party fully prevailed. It affirmed the trial court’s finding that Ready Windows was entitled to receive payment for the products delivered to the Bauers for their benefit, which was the subject of the Bauers’ appeal. The court also affirmed the original legal finding that Ready Windows breached the contract for the installation of the doors and windows and affirmed the trial court’s award to the Bauers of “a certain amount” for the installation, which was the subject of Ready Windows’ cross-appeal. Because both parties prevailed on significant issues, the appeals court found  that neither party deserved appellate fees.

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